Just Be Kind

I saw this quote today and it reminded me of something that happened years ago. I was at the pharmacy filling a prescription for my daughter. I can’t remember what it was for, but I know it was something minor like a skin irritation or allergy.

It had been a long day that started before dawn. My husband was travelling and I was on single-parent duty. I got up very early so I could shower and get ready for work before waking the kids. When I was sure they wouldn’t roll over and go back to sleep, I went to prepare breakfast. I fed them, finished packing their lunches, tidied up, made sure they were warmly dressed and got them to the bus stop. Then I made it to work with no time to spare.

I left the office early to take Luce to her medical appointment. With the prescription in hand, we drove back to the school to pick up Erik and head home. I prepared dinner and threw in a load of laundry while the kids started their homework. Only while we were eating did I remember that we hadn’t filled the prescription.

So, after dinner Luce and I put on our coats to go to the pharmacy. Erik was sitting comfortably on the couch watching the hockey game. “Do I have to come?” he asked. He was only 10 but we would be gone less than 20 minutes.

“OK, you can stay here, but lock the door and stay in the house,” I said.

While we waited for the medication, my mind wandered over my ever-growing “to-do” list. The pharmacist brought me back to the present when he handed me the medication and said, “You could also buy some anti-bacterial soap. It’s in aisle six.” I know he was trying to help. But I was exhausted, it was getting late, my son was at home alone, it was dark and cold out and I just wanted this day over. So, I sighed and hesitated for a fraction of a second.  And that’s when he added in a judgmental tone, “It’s not expensive.”

I could feel Luce looking at me as I locked eyes with him. With that one phrase, that one look, and that condescending tone, he made me feel small, inconsequential and like a terrible parent. He didn’t get it. It wasn’t about the money. It was about reaching limits. I told Luce to go and find the soap. Then I stood, weighing my response. In the end, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

The quote reminds me of that pharmacist and that day. And it reminds me to try to be kind because I have no idea what’s going on in someone else’s life.

 

THANKS FOR THE ADVICE, DAD

My Dad was a great person.  He was quiet, hard-working and led pretty much by example. He gave me a lot of good advice that has stood the test of time. But there are some simple pieces of advice that just no longer work today.  Here are a few:

“Always carry a dime on you so you can call home in an emergency.”  

It was understood at the time, of course, that this was to call from a phone booth. Today, even if I could find a phone booth, I’m sure I would need more than a dime to make a call.  In fact, read this article in the Smithsonian.com to learn how a phone booth has been placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

“Always tip gas service attendants.”
What’s a gas service attendant, Dad?

When I said something he thought was foolish, he’d say:
“That and ten cents will get you a cup of coffee.”

It seems a lot of things cost ten cents back then, including a cup of coffee. Today, a small coffee at McDonald’s will set you back $1.00 and let’s not even think about the Starbucks specialty coffees with fancy artistic whorls drawn in the steamed milk.

 

Still, the advice served me well at the time – thanks Dad!

It’s funny now. But then? Not so much.

All parents know their kids will push the boundaries or test them at some point. The use of foul language is usually a good jumping off point for them. But when I thought my son had reached that point at just 18 months old, I was not amused.  At least not at first.

He was sitting in his highchair one Saturday while I stood at the counter with my back to him preparing lunch. Suddenly, I heard him say loudly, “F**K,  Maman!”  There was even a pause for dramatic effect between the two words. Like:  “F**K.    PAUSE.    Maman!

Thank goodness he couldn’t see my shocked expression. My eyes nearly popped out of my head and the knife I was holding clattered to the counter when I dropped it. Clearly, he didn’t know what the words meant but how I could stop him from saying them again? And where did he learn them?  Yes, his father and I used the occasional, mild swear words, but never, never that.  It had to be that daycare he went to!

My mind raced as I questioned my judgment in leaving my child in the care of someone else when I went back to work.  (Author’s note:  It was a perfectly good daycare centre). There was no doubt about it; I would have to talk to the daycare owner on Monday. For the moment, though, my priority was dealing with my son.

I knew not to laugh (which was the last thing I wanted to do) or show disapproval. That would be enough to make him start chanting the words like a mantra to get a rise out of me.  I rehearsed what to say in my head, “Now, Erik, Maman would prefer that you not say that again please.”  Definitely too wimpy. Maybe I could distract him with “Why don’t we sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’?”  I took a deep breath and turned to face him, ready to tackle this parenting challenge head-on.

As I did he held up his fork to me and exclaimed again “F **K, Maman! with a big grin on his face.  He was so proud of having mastered a new word (fork) that I thought his cheeks would burst with pride.  And me?  Well, I was a little embarrassed that I had been so quick to pin the blame on the daycare for something that turned out to be harmless. And I was a lot relieved. But mostly, I couldn’t stop laughing as I went over to give my son a big hug.

P.S.  Despite my continued fears, my son grew up to be a polite young man who does not swear, at least not in the presence of his mother.